The EAP Bureau's Big Five in 2015

Posted by Daniel R. Russel
December 31, 2015
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry does an "ASEAN handshake" as he poses with his fellow Foreign Ministers from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. [State Department Photo]

It’s been a big year in the East Asia-Pacific (EAP) region. Let me try to sum it up in five words (or acronyms or hashtags).

#TPP: The United States was proud to lead negotiations with 11 other countries to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership –- a truly new kind of agreement that liberalizes trade, protects workers and the environment, and opens up many of the most dynamic economies in the world, accounting for nearly 40 percent of global trade. Kudos to my friend U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman and his team!

#BurmaElection: Democracy and freedom took a huge step forward with the successful election in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi and the incoming National League for Democracy government face many challenges in building a nation that respects the dignity, the human rights, and the aspirations of all its people.  But for the first time in 62 years, the country has the wind at its back. America was proud to support Burma’s democratic process, working with all players, including outgoing President Thein Sein’s government. We look forward to growing our relationship with the Burmese people in the years to come.

#ActOnClimate: EAP made important contributions to the fight against climate change this year –- from the historic China-U.S. joint pledge to reduce emissions, to Japan’s $1.5 billion dollar pledge to the South Korea-hosted U.N. Green Climate Fund, to the COP21 commitments of EAP nations, to the strong voice and moral weight of the Pacific Island nations, whose very existence is threatened by rising seas.

#ASEAN: Launching the ASEAN Community was an important step forward for this group of countries at the center of East Asia. Launching the US-ASEAN Strategic Partnership was another. By integrating economically and forming an ASEAN identity, they are building a brighter, more prosperous future.  And by bringing all the region’s leaders together through the East Asia Summit (EAS), they are helping to address regional and global challenges including tensions in the South China Sea and other threats to peaceful development. The United States is proud to support ASEAN and we will work closely with it to ensure a prosperous, secure, and rules-based region.

#Reconciliation:  The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific has been a time for reflection and, ultimately, reconciliation. The visits to Washington by the leaders of Japan and Korea highlighted the close relationship our nations have forged, and the bright future we are creating together. And then, just this week, Japan and the Korea reached an agreement to resolve the World War II legacy issue of “comfort women.” The two countries’ statement that they have achieved a “final and irreversible” settlement is welcome news that opens the door to even closer cooperation among our three countries in 2016 and beyond.

We expect to do even more with the region next year. We will push for ratification of the TPP. President Obama will host the leaders of the ten ASEAN nations early this spring.  And the President, Secretary Kerry, and America’s diplomats will continue to visit Asia and work with our EAP partners to advance peace, prosperity, health, human dignity, and more throughout 2016.

Happy New Year!

About the Author: Daniel Russel serves as Assistant Secretary for  the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP).

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